Diplomat’s wife become a puppy raiser

Clara Belli and her dogs, Jagger and Oscar. Photo: Mari Rheeder.

An American citizen from Woodhill has a big heart for animals.

A Gautrain trip eventually led to Clara Belli becoming a puppy raiser for the SA Guide Dogs Association for the Blind.

She is currently raising an 11-month-old Golden Retriever, Jagger, and a six-month-old Labrador, Oscar.

Her family moves every four years due to her husband’s job.

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He is an Italian diplomat.

“Because I am the spouse of a diplomat, I cannot get a job permit. Being a puppy raiser gives me a purpose,” said Belli.

Previously, she raised a puppy to become a guide dog in America.

“I was a student and saw an advert in a grocery store,” she said.

“It was the first time I lived without a dog and I missed canine companionship.

“Being a puppy raiser was perfect as I could not commit to the full lifetime of a dog.”

Travelling with the Gautrain, she discovered the SA Guide Dogs Association.

“I sat in a seat near a guide dog owner and I started a conversation with him.”

Jagger came into her life as an eight-week-old puppy and Oscar came to stay with the family when he was about two months old.

He needed an emergency home due to unforeseen circumstances.

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Jagger had to undergo an elbow surgery in April which meant he would start with his formal training later.

Jagger may go on to become a guide dog for a person who is visually impaired or a service dog for a person who is physically disabled.

“The USA has many Guide Dog Schools and are similar to SA Guide Dogs Association in many ways,” she said.

An interesting fact is that in America some Guide Dog Schools have started to use non-violent prisoners as puppy raisers.

“It has proven to be very successful. It helps the prisoner to become a more responsible person.”

She said however, she preferred the programme in South Africa.

“We had 13 weeks of puppy classes.”

During these classes, she met other puppy raisers and Jagger had an opportunity to interact with his litter mates.

“I met South African friends during these classes. We became genuine friends, because of the dogs.”

She said having to one day let go of her dogs was terribly sad, but it would all be worthwhile if one of her dogs could succeed in becoming a working dog in service of a person who is “differently-abled.”

Clara Belli, Jagger and Oscar. Photo: Mari Rheeder.

Oscar in his training jacket. Photo: Supplied.

Oscar, the family’s basset and Jagger. Photo: Supplied.

Oscar, Jagger and the family’s basset hound. Photo: Supplied.

Jagger. Photo: Supplied.

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Mari Rheeder
Online Editor

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